Anton Pregler - Early Settler
1850 - 1934
Bohemian Old Settler's Association
Pregler's Grove Becomes Home For Bohemian Home For The Aged
Born in Bohemia, arriving at an early age in Chicago, Anton Pregler, lived in Chicago for nearly seventy years and lived a life that took him through a series of life experiences that included; being a grocer, a real estate agent, a saloon keeper, a man who hosted numerous and large events on his property across from the Bohemian National Cemetery; to an early participant in Chicago politics, to head the Bohemian Old Settlers Society,, and finally see his property become the Bohemian Home for the Aged and Orphans.
Anton Pregler was born on September 21, 1850 at Kutna Hora #268 to Thomas and Mary Pregler. (1) Anton had two known siblings; Rose and Louis. The entire known family would reach Chicago, and during the 1880’s, all three children, Anton, Louis and Rose (with husband Joseph Novak) would be owners of grocery stores.
Mary and son Louis (listed as Pergler) would depart Bremen and arrive at New York city on 4-10-1866 aboard the ship Hansa. Thomas and son Anton (listed as Praegler) would depart Bremen and arrive at New York city on 11-20-1866 aboard the ship Bremen. (2)
The Pregler family were firmly entrenched in the heart of the Praha District, the early area of Czech settlement in Chicago. The 1871 Chicago Directory and the 1880 Census list their address as 440 Jefferson.
The 1880 Census and Chicago Directory lists brothers Anton and Louis as grocers at 440 Jefferson, and sister Rose, with husband Joseph Novak, as grocers at 145 Bunker. (3)
In 1935, August Geringer’s “Amerikan Kalendar” published a summary of Anton’s life which described his early interest in Czech theatre. It mentions he was a volunteer actor in hall Slovanska Lipa on Taylor, near Canal, along with participation in singing groups Lyra and Hlahol. Anton was also a Sokol member. Anton would also become a member of Ceska Beseda and the Czech Art Club. (4)
The same article describes that father, Thomas, was informed of Julie Habak. Anton would marry Julie in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ancestry does have a record of Anton’s marriage in Milwaukee, on 9-28-1880 to Julie Rabak. (5)
While brother Louis was in the USA army from 1872 to 1877, listed as being in the Indian Wars, he is listed in the Chicago directory as still active as a grocer. Anton’s career as a grocer will end after this, as he posted an advertisement to sell his grocery store in 1889. (For Sale / Rent AD BelowGoogle Translate Used) (6)
Anton would transition to a saloon keeper, with other associated services, on a twelve-acre property across from the Bohemian National Cemetery. Brother Louis became interested in real estate.
As a saloon keeper, Pregler was more than a short census and Chicago Directory description. Around 1887 he already owned, or would come to own about 12 acres of land across the street from Bohemian National Cemetery. Pregler’s large property became known as “Pregler’s Grove”. Described as a garden like area, it seems to have been his main business focus until its sale in 1901. He advertised, hosted and catered to a variety of organizations. His goal appeared to be, use Pregler’s Grove for their meetings, picnics and everything else in between. Using English and Foreign language papers for advertising, groups as far away as Milwaukee held events on his property. It became a meeting place for the Bohemian Old Settlers Association. It served food to those who had traveled to the cemetery for a funeral. It was the host of meetings or the food and refreshment location after large meetings held across the street at the cemetery.
The Chicago Tribune on 7-29-1889 article ("Honor For Brave Dead") describes the gathering of between six to eight thousand people at the Bohemian National Cemetery for the laying of the corner stone for what would become the largest military memorial monuement in the cemetery. Special trains and carriages brought the large crowd to the cemetery. Children sang, Bohemian societies participated, a large number of Grand Old Army of the Republic officials were present and gave speeches. "In The Afternoon" after dinner there were more addresses and more singing in Pregler's Grove. William Kaspar, President of the Monument Association, and J.V. Matejka of the Chicago Listy spokie in Bohemian, and Col. J. M. Southworth and Adolf Krause in English..........
The 1900 Chicago Directory and Census both list Anton as a saloon keeper at his Pregler’s Grove address. Pregler’s interest to continue the operation of Pregler’s Grove seems to have waned at about the same time. He had already taken an interest in real estate, an enterprise his brother had already been engaged in. Back and forth negotiations between Pregler and several Bohemian leaders and organizations would lead to the 1901 sale of Pregler’s Grove. The Foreign Language Press Survey, part of the Newberry Library collection of information, provides a good description.
The Old People's Home Near the Bohemian National Cemetery.
Denní Hlasatel, May 24, 1901
The property of the well known citizen Anton Pregler was bought for it.
The efforts of all countrymen in Chicago to have the home located near the outskirts of Chicago, so that it could be easily reached, were realized yesterday afternoon. The directors of the home, through their fully empowered representatives, Jan Pech and Jan Visko, arranged for the purchase of the property, belonging to the well known countryman Anton Pregler, which is located near the Bohemian National Cemetery.
This change will surely be welcomed by every one with great satisfaction, as the Bensenville, Ill. site for the home, which was located in Du Page county, because of the great distance and bad travel connections did not please anyone. The directors of the home, in the belief, that if the site for the home were closer to Chicago, the entire undertaking would be looked upon more favorably, looked about for a suitable site.
Anton Pregler offered to sell his property for this purpose, several years ago, asking at that time $40,000, but as the price asked seemed to be too high, further discussion was held on the matter by the directors in private, until last Thursday, when the directors again began negotiating with Mr. Pregler. He was willing to sell his entire property to the directors of the home for $32,000, but was unwilling to accept as part payment the property which the home held in Bensenville, Ill. The directors of the home, however, did not allow this objection to defeat their purpose of purchasing a suitable site, and immediately sent Mr. Pech and Mr. Viska to negotiate with Mr. Pregler, It was finally agreed that Mr. Pregler would turn his property over to the home for $24,000, and in addition he was to receive the Bensenville property of the home, which is valued at about $9,000.
Wednesday, a special meeting of the board of directors was called and it was decided, unanimously, to accept the offer and buy the property from Mr. Pregler.
Yesterday the deal was closed, and according to it, Anton Pregler, together with his wife, turn their property over to the board of directors of the home and receive for it the home property in Bensenville and $24,000, of which $1,000, each $500, they donate toward the building funds of the home.
The directors of the home have on hand about $8000, so they need about $13,000 more in order to pay the required amount of the transaction and this they expect to borrow from the National Cemetery to which surely none of the representatives of that body will be opposed.
The home will receive the Pregler property "as is" with the exception of the personal property of the seller. (7)
On June 23, 1950 the Chicago Tribune published a large article on the Bohemian Home for the Aged as it approached its golden jubilee at the former property of Anton Pregler.
The article contained pictures, stories historic and current, and information that the Home was soon to begin modernization.
If you have access to newspaper subscription services, you will discover a really large collection of articles on the Bohemian Home for the Aged extending across decades at the Pregler location.
The orphange seems to disappear during the 1950's, and eventually the Bohemian Home for the Aged found a new home as "Tabor Hills" in Naperville, Illinois.
Anton Pregler may have been a business man, but over the course of nearly seventy years he did develop other interests. He became an active member of Czech political organizations and was engaged in ward politics to ensure the increasing involvement of Czechs in the Chicago political world.
The Inter Ocean Newspaper, Chicago, 9-14-1886, page 5: "Springfield, Illnois, Sept. 13 - The Secretary of State today issued licenses to the following corporations: Eight Ward Bohemian Republican Club, located at Chicago; incorporatorrs, Jsoeph C. Chapek, William Caspar, Anton Pregler, and others."
The Chicago Tribune, Chicago, 10-14-1886, page 9: "An Auspicious Event: The Eight Ward Bohemian Republican Club Honored: A beautiful silk American Flag presented by the Lady Admirers of the organization - Gov. Oglesby makes a stirring address - Music and Dancing ........ given last evening at the Bohemian Turner Hall on De Koven street, near Canal.... Mr. Anton Pregler, President of the club, called the meeting to order...."
The Chicago Tribune, Chicago, 1-16-1887, page 3: "Good Work in the Eighth Ward. At our annual ecelction held Saturday evening, Jan. 8, we elected the following officers: Anton C. Pregler, President; Frank Tesar, Vice President; Joseph A. Smeikal, Secretary; A. Breicha....... Bohemian Republican Club of the Eighth Ward."
The Inter Ocean, Chicago, 3-24-1901, page 9: Political Meetings Today - "Pregler's hall, West fortieh avenue and the river. Speakers, W.M. McEwen, L.L. Elliott, George E. Waters, Anton Pregler, Alderman A. F. Keeney, James J. Barbour'
The Inter Ocean, Chicago, 4-5-1903, page 4: Republican Meetings Today - "2 PM Twelfth ward, Novatny's Hall, Twenty Second and Troy streets, Bohemian Mass meeting: Thomas O'Shaughnessy, F.C. Bender, John F. Smulski, Frank Keichman, Charles B. Pavlicek, james A. Smejkal, James F. Stepina, Anton Novak, Anton Pregler, Frank Fusick."
His large property "Pregler's Grove has been sold. The 1910 Census lists Anton as living at 2147 North Avenue. It also lists his occupation as "Real Estate". Using newspaper subscriptions as a resource, several were found, and by the dates they indicate Anton had been involved in real estate for several years prior to the census.
If you encounter five references which name the first Bohemian to reach and settle in Chicago, you could well find each has a different person named. Anton Pregler, brother Louis and parents Thomas and Mary arrived in the United States in 1866. The ship records are found and posted. The same does not seem to be said for sister Rose, who also lived her life in Chicago. Census and Chicago Directory listings begin to appear for family members in 1870.
Anton Pregler, from his activiites, was proud of his Bohemian heritage and the family's early arrival in the United States. So much so that he was instrumental in the formation of the Bohemian Old Settlers Association and the support he provided for most of his life.
Using two references; the book, "Pamatnik Starych Ceskych Osadniku v Chicagu", 1899, by Dr. Jan Habenicht and Anton Pregler; and "Dejiny Desetiletiho Trvani Spolku Starych Ceskych Osdniku v Chicagu, Ill) 1908; Robert O. Uher was the author of an extensive article on the establishment of the Czech Old Settler's Association of Chicago. (CSAGSI KORENY, Fall 1997) Excerpted portions of that article are below.
"On Memorial Day, May 30, 1898 after ceremonies at the Bohemian National Cemetery, many of the Czechs who had lived in Chicago for 30 or 40 years, stopped for refreshment at the picnic grove of Antonin Pregler. The location was just a short distance south of the cemetery on Crawford Avenue......On this day the old settlers sat around the tables at Pregler's Grove talking about their experiences in America over the past years. Among them was Frantisek Shultz, a Civil War veteran, Jakub Padecky, both their wives, and also Jan Pribyl, Mrs. Anna Cizkovska and Antonin Pregler. Mrs Schultz brought up the idea that the Czechs should form an Old Settlers club similar to those of the Irish and German American groups.
The thought was instantly seized upon by the energetic Antonin Pregler who called upon all friends and guests present to bring to a realization such a practical idea. The matter was entrusted to the capable hands of Mr. Pregler who promptyl advertised in the Czech newspapers for a meeting to be held on July 28, 1898 in the Plzen Sokol Hall for the purpose of founding such an organization. On that date a large nuber of Czech Old Settlers who were pioneers of Czech Nationalistic and Social life gathered there and heard Mr. Pregler explain the purpose and reason for the found of the club. His speech covered the period since the Civil War. The warmth of his words assured the formation of the "Czech Old Settlers Club".
Mr. Pregler was elected Interim President and Frantisek Stejskal, a Civil War veteran, as Secretary. A committee was set up to prepare a code of by-laws. This committee included the following women: Anna Cizkovska, marie Stejskalova, and Anna Jelinkova and the following men; Frantisek Stejskal, Jakub Padecky and Frantisek Fucik who suggested that the name of the club should be "Czech Old Settlers of Chicago."
Then followed the enrollment of members, among them the following oldest settlers in Chicago: Jakub Padecky, Frantisek Barcal, Frantisek Stejskal, Frantisek Shultz, Jan Vaska, Karel Novak, Frantisek Fucik, Antonin Pregler, Vaclav Pospisil, Josef Langmayer, Tomas Kalas, Karel Vondrejs, Frantisek Hrejsa, and the following women: Marie Pdecka, Maria Talafosouva, Anna Cizkovska, Katerina Shutlzova, Anna Cizkovska, Katerina Shultzova, Anna Fucikova, Katerina Hiasmanova, A. Vaskova, Josefa Nemeckova, Anna Jelinkova, Anna Chocolova, Johanna Langmayerova, marie Terclova and Marie Kalasova.
The second meeting of the group was held on August 4, 1898 at the Libuse Hall on 12th street where Antonin Pregler was elected President, Jakub Padecky, Vice President, and Frantisek Stejskal Secretary. An executive committee was selected for one year consisting of the following: Marie Stejskalova, Marie Pavlikova, Anna jelinkova, marie Vistajinov, Josefa Baumruckerova, Frantisek Fucik, Antonin Pregler, Frantisek Stejskal, Jakub Padecky, Jakub Kandlik, and Frantisek Schulta (Sulc).
Frantisek Fucik read the by-laws which included the requirement that each member be a countryman of good moral upbringing, residing in Chicago and have lived in America at leat 25 years. The by-laws were unanimously adopted as read. It was further resolved that in honor of the founding of the club a grand nationalistic celebration would be held on August 28, 1898 in Pregler's Picnic grove. The use of the grove without charge to the club was offered by Mr. Presler. There was however an administrative charge of 15 cents per person.
Accordingly on August 28, 1898, with the advantage of perfect weather, Czechs from all corners of Chicago gathered at Mr. Pregler's grove, some evn coming from the far distant town of Algonquin for the event. The grove was decorated with the National Flags of America and Bohemia in rich colors and the impression was magnificent.
................. At the conclusion of the program gold medals were awarded to Mrs. Marie Pech, living in America since 1853, and Mr. Jan Haisman, living in America since 1848 as the oldest club members..........."
Through the lifetime of his involvement in the Bohemian Old Settlers (Society, Association, Club) Anton Pregler was usually an officer or on a committee. During the time he was owner of Pregler's Grove, those society meetings were held there.
Newspaper subscription services, such as newspapers.com have numerous advertisements or stories of the Old Settlers meeting in Pregler's Grove or elsewhere.
Czech Old Settlers' Picnic
Denní Hlasatel, July 25, 1918
Old settlers whose services to the Czech community in Chicago have been invaluable, like to remember former times when they had to work hard and untirelingly, not only to found an existence for themselves, but also to prepare and insure a better future for those who came after them to the land of liberty, to continue the work which they had begun. All of Czech Chicago gladly joins with them in their reminiscences, which are revived in annual gatherings, at which congenial conversation and pleasant, plain entertainment are offered.
One such gathering took place yesterday, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Czech Old Settlers' Association. This gave the picnic a special luster, and made it one of the most successful in years. It was held in the Pilsen Brewery Park, the usual place for these affairs. Innumerable Czech settlers are members of the Association, including many who left town years ago. Even young people belong, thus symbolizing the future, while the older people form the background, representing the past and the present. These annual celebrations reflect the peaceful, harmonious, sociable life in the settlement, as the old settlers knew it.
Nevertheless, yesterday's picnic reflected the grave import of the present time. A patriotic air pervaded the festival. Aged men and women frankly expressed the wish that "the man with the scythe" might wait for awhile, until the war ended with a victory for the United States, so that the old people could rejoice in the liberation of the world, and, last but not least, in the rescue of Czechoslovakian territory from subjugation.
The festive picnic opened, as always, at 11 A. M., and soon groups of people, most of whom were members of the Association, were seen in lively conversation, for many had not met for a whole year. There was a parade with a markedly patriotic aspect. It was led by John Sokol, head of the Scouts. He wore a mask, and was dressed as "Uncle Sam". Girls from the Red Cross marched, followed by members of the Association.
A new flag was raised over the park pavilion, after which "Uncle Sam" recited the oath of allegiance in English. It was repeated by the audience in the Czech language. This was a solemn moment.
Mr. Anton Pregler enthusiastically outlined the activities of the Association. "My esteemed fellow citizens, fellow members of the Czech Old Settlers' Association," he began. "I wish to say only a few sincere words to you....We are celebrating the memory of July 14, 1898, when our Association was founded.....Conforming with our statutes, the Association is managed by a directorate of six men and six women.....
"Sixteen men have addressed former gatherings at various times, usually after the main ceremonies were over. Among those speakers were Charles Vopicka, V. Kaspar, Robert Pitte, Judge J. Z. Uhlir, J. Kostner, Joseph Cermak, and Judge Kickham Scanlan of the County Court. (7)
Anton Pregler (Find A Grave # 107452757) died in 1934. He and his wife Julia, along with his parents, Thomas and Mary, and his brother Louis, with his wife Rosa are interred in Rosehill Cemetery.
1. Birth Baptism Anton Pregler 9-21-1850, Kutna Hora #268, Kutna Hora Book 13, image 30, Prague Archives
2. Ancestry.com - Year 1866: Arrival: New York, New York USA: Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820 - 1897: Line 7; List Number: 314
3. Ancestry.com - Year: 1880; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois Roll; 191; Pge 610B; Enumeration District: 085
4. "Amerika Kalendar" 1935 - August Geringer Publisher, Chicago, Illinois, Pages 198 - 1999.
5. Ancestry.com - Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. Marriages, 1838 - 1911
6. Duch Casu, Czech Language Newspaper, Chicago, Illinois, 8-4-1889, Page 387.
7. Foreign Language Press Survey - Available at the Newberry Library web site: https://flps.newberry.org/#/